Introduction and summary

Over the last year, the Western U.P. Food Systems Council has become an emergent and evolving collaborative that is a grassroots coalition with a focus on equity and justice in our local food system.

In October of 2018, we received support and applied for initial seed money from MSU Center for Regional Food Systems to pay for Council meeting costs and website. The initial grant cycle at this time ran from October 2018 - April 2019. This seed money paid for the first four meetings and this website domain for posting information about the local food system, its Council, and other community resources. The Western U.P. Food Systems Council has been meeting bimonthly in every Western U.P. county to identify the strengths and challenges in our local food system and how we can support equitable growth and collaboration. Previously we’ve heard from community members in Houghton, L’Anse, Ironwood, and Watersmeet. In these conversations, we are learning how excited people are to engage in food systems work, while also learning about local Interests and challenges different communities face.

Michigan Technological University students (Community Based Research Methods) present their findings to the Food Systems Council

Michigan Technological University students (Community Based Research Methods) present their findings to the Food Systems Council

Since receiving the seed grant, we have been funded through the 2019 Regional Prosperity Initiative. This state grant through the regional planning agency, Western U.P. Planning & Development Region, which secures 25% of an assistant regional planner to:

Michelle Jarvie with MSU Extension teaching the youth to identify ostrich fern fiddleheads

  • Identify and apply for short/long-term funding sources for local/regional food projects

  • Build relationships within local food systems to support future projects;

  • Co-create programs that are desired by our community; Thank you to those that have co-created projects already - Keweenaw Bay Indian Community Natural Research Department, Lac Vieux Desert Band of Lake Superior Chippewa, and Michigan Tech University

  • Support and coordinate several student research groups (MTU & U of M)

  • Organize and support meetings in every county (October 2018 - December 2019)

  • Utilize part of the funds to contract researchers to facilitate community food systems assessments.

We are seeking knowledge and local collaborators in building a more resilient food system in the Western U.P. . Many folks have been working in this space for a long time and we want to hear their stories. It’s an honor to learn from you all and work together for a food system that serves the people.